Posts Tagged "writer’s studio"

Writer’s Studio: Finding the Emotional Resonance

Posted by on Oct 4, 2013 in Picture Books, Writer Tips & Tools | 2 comments

Last weekend I had the pleasure and honor of presenting at our 2013 Fall Letters & Lines Conference. The session I gave was called “What’s Your Picture Book About? Developing Effective Story Summaries.” One of the most wonderful things about picture books is that there is such a variety of types; not every picture book is a traditional narrative story with a character, a conflict, and a resolution. However, for those that follow this model, I encouraged writers to go deeper and find and exploit the emotional resonance in their stories. Using Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, I posed a series of questions to get us all looking at the story more deeply, beyond just the plot about a boy, Max, who is “naughty,” sent to bed without supper and enters the imaginary world of the wild things where he is in charge. Here are a few questions to get your creativity flowing: How do the circumstances change by the end of the story? How do the new circumstances affect my character?/How does my character change by the end of the story? What single image do you want the child who is reading/listening to the story to walk away with? This is not necessarily an illustration or scene you “see” from the book (though it could be), but an image that encapsulates what your book is truly about. Answering these questions not only will help you develop an effective summary that you can use to entice an editor or agent to want more, but also assist you in making your story one that will stay in the minds and hearts of readers for years to come. Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new...

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Writer’s Studio: Brainstorming Your Way Out of the Box

Posted by on Aug 2, 2013 in Writer Tips & Tools | 0 comments

I completely forgot to do my Writer’s Studio for July, so I wanted to make sure we had one for August! One of the most frequent comments writers see when an editor takes a pass on a picture book manuscript is something along the lines of “It’s not distinct/unique/different enough to stand out in a crowded market.” I, myself, have had this comment, even after editors have loved the writing and really liked the manuscript. It can be maddening to feel you’ve got a wonderful manuscript, but it’s not quite there. Recently I was discussing one such manuscript with my agent. We both loved it and felt that, though it was a little similar to other books out there, it had enough bounce and charm to carry it through. But something niggled at me. I wasn’t so sure. The market is crowded, and so are the In Boxes (both real and virtual) of the editors and publishers. I want to make sure I’m doing everything possible to ensure my manuscript is as unique as it can be. So I read it again. And again. I tweaked it based on my agent’s comments. Then I asked myself: What can I do to make this more unique? Asking Questions In my July 19 Friday Focus, I used some questions from Donald Maass’s Writing the 21st Century Novel. I grabbed a few of those off the top of my head, modifying them for my picture book manuscript. It’s a short rhyming story for the very young. Here are the questions I asked: What would you not expect character/element, place to do/be? What are words you typically would not use to describe the character/element/place, etc? After I had a start on the above three questions, I asked myself this: What would kids find humorous about this situation? Coming Up with Answers Then beneath each of the above questions, I wrote down everything that came to me, trying not to censor myself, but writing everything, no matter how crazy or unrelated it sounded. I was amazed at what the lists triggered. I revised a few stanzas, and then wham! A theme struck. So I revised some more, removing a stanza and adding two new ones. Changing a few words to match the theme. I was so excited about the result I could hardly contain myself. No matter what happens with the manuscript, I loved every minute of going in a completely different direction, of feeling my creative pistons firing synchronistically. Asking questions about a manuscript can really help spur you on so I encourage you to use some of these questions or come up with some of your own. Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new...

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Writer’s Studio: Using Scrivener to Storyboard Your Picture Book

Posted by on Jun 7, 2013 in Picture Books, Writer Tips & Tools | 2 comments

When I was on faculty at the Big Sur in the Rockies Workshop in May, I happened to mention that I started using Scrivener to write my latest novel and how much it has helped keep me organized. One of the writer’s asked if I used it for writing picture books and I said no. But after thinking about it for a minute, I said it could work. “In fact, you could use it to storyboard your picture book after it’s written using Corkboard view!” This got me all excited so of course when I got home, I fired up Scrivener and tried it out. (Thank you, Stacy!) The first time I copied and pasted the text from my manuscript, I had a blank card, so I moved things around. The next time, I saw that I had a lot of text on one spread. I thought it still worked so I left it the way it was. Here are some strategies and tips for using Scrivener to storyboard your manuscript after you have a good draft. It can really help you see if you have enough story to carry 32 pages as well as whether those pages have excellent illustration possibilities. Set up a new project with 14 index cards; each of these will be a spread. Save it as your Picture Book Storyboard. This will be your template for all future manuscripts. With the template open, save it as the name of your manuscript so the template stays clean. Keep in mind that not every picture book will use 14 spreads. Some may start the book earlier or take an extra page at the end. If you find your story falling into that category, set up your template and cards that way. If you aren’t sure, try creating 14 spreads because if you can fill those effectively (each spread moves the story forward and has good visual potential), you’ll be in good shape.   Next, I’m going to try to write a picture book with Scrivener. I’ll report back sometime in late fall/winter – right now I’m still working on the novel! Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new...

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Writer’s Studio: Making Good (Word) Choices

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in Novels, Writer Tips & Tools | 0 comments

Last Friday at my Wild Writers critique meeting, someone commented on how she was chomping at the bit to start a new novel, and a few people echoed her excitement about the joys of the first draft, free and unfettered. For them anyway. I’m still not completely out of my habit of agonizing over word choices as I write. I’ll catch myself hesitating because the word or phrase or sentence I just wrote isn’t quite what I mean and what if I forget about it when I start to revise? The truth is that I’m not going to forget. if it’s bad, I’ll see it and can fix it. So this Studio is less about editing as you go and more about selecting the right words. I’ll use a short excerpt from a story-in-progress called “Kat Flynn’s Guide to Getting Over a Crush.” I will be offering it on all e-formats in May to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the publication of Fact of Life #31. The Excerpt He was standing just outside the gym, talking and laughing with a group of guys and girls. All six-foot-two, dark-haired awesomeness of him right over there. So close and yet so far away. My heart did its usual skip-beat, warmth flooding through me. Okay, I’m not sure how I’m going to change this yet, but I do want to point out some weaknesses I see already. The first sentence opens the story. It’s fine, but I think it could patch a little more punch. I’ll work on that. It has a been there, read that quality. How many different ways can you describe what it feels like to spot your crush? I don’t know, but I’d like to find a way that hasn’t been overdone. “So close and yet so far away” is cliched. It actually works here because Kat would say that, but I think I want to try something different, something that gives a better sense of how she’s really feeling about a guy she can’t stop thinking about who may never look at her in any meaningful way. It looks like I have my work cut out for me! What else do you see in this excerpt that could be strengthened? Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new...

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Writer’s Studio: Constructing a Scene

Posted by on Jan 4, 2013 in Novels, Writer Tips & Tools | 0 comments

You’ve probably heard about creating a scene that is basically a mini-story with a beginning, middle and end and that shows some kind of change in the character or new knowledge. I heard this after my books were already published, but am working hard to include it in my current work-in-progress. However, I decided to try an experiment, and picked up the first book in my blog duet: Click Here (to find out how i survived seventh grade). I opened the book to a random page (72) to see if the scene had any sort of structure. It did, but it could have been stronger. The Scene The scene opens with Erin facing off against her crush, Mark Sacks, in some one-on-one basketball. She’s nervous and a little insecure, wondering whether this is about playing ball or if Mark’s real motive is to find out more about Erin’s best friend, Jilly, whom he spotted at play rehearsal and thought was cute. But she manages to get over that and get into the game, have some teasing and talking. Att one point they end up on the floor together, practically nose-to-nose. They don’t kiss, much to Erin’s disappointment, and quickly recover to complete their game. They finish off with a ball-spinning contest. Examining the Scene The scene definitely has a beginning, middle and end. It begins with Erin and Mark on the court, with Mark challenging her to start the game. In the middle they play, talking back and forth and getting to know each other. The scene ends with Mark winning because the almost-kiss distracted Erin, but she seems more confident in spite of her embarrassment. We also see that Mark seems to have a new-found respect for her when he sees her skill at ball-spinning. But… Even though this scene gives us a lot – we see their friendship strengthened and Erin hold her own competitively–I think I could have done more with it, given it more forward momentum in terms of plot and perhaps shown her overcoming her insecurity a little more directly. Why Is Your Main Character in This Scene? To approach the scene another way, I also used a question agent and author Donald Maass raises in his book, Writing the Breakout Novel: What is driving your MC (main character) through this scene? What’s driving Erin through this scene is a desire to be with Mark and hopefully get together with him. I think I did a good job of showing how Erin starts out pretty nervous and ends up feeling comfortable, even after the almost-kiss. But again, I could have gone a little deeper to make the scene even more satisfying. Finally, I have a sticky note near my computer: What is the purpose of this scene? This goes along with what drives the character. Every scene needs to have a purpose. If a scene doesn’t, then we need to re-evaluate it. Fix it or lose it! Take a look at your scenes with these ideas in mind and see if you can make them even better than they already are. Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new...

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